WASHINGTON: Pakistani physicians, who held their four-day convention in the US capital this year, displayed rare unity by devoting two evenings to the Palestinian cause.

However, differences emerged among them regarding Pakistani politics, particularly concerning Imran Khan and his continued incarceration. Despite these fissures, the vast majority of attendees appeared to support the former prime minister.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American lawmaker from Michigan, was the chief guest at the annual dinner on Saturday night. She presented awards and prizes and earned a standing ovation from the audience when she spoke about her efforts to promote the Palestinian cause, both within and outside the US Congress.

“You too have problems, multiple problems,” said Bassem Youssef, a popular Egyptian-American TV host and surgeon. “And yet you gave the stage to Rashida and me to talk about Palestine. This shows your concern.”

Tlaib is seeking re-election from Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, which has a large Arab population and heavily favors Democrats.

But Republicans have united in a bid to dislodge her. She stressed the importance of highlighting the plight of the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, and acknowledged the role of the Pakistani-American community in promoting the cause. “The choice is not between talking about Palestine or not talking about Palestine. It’s about how to do it more effectively,” she said.

While she focused on the political and diplomatic aspects of the Palestinian issue, Bassem used his popular humour to shed light on the matter. He told the physicians about the numerous ways they could apply pressure, especially those who perform prostate exams.

One of his jokes underscored how democracy presents American Muslims with multiple choices. For instance, this year they could choose between a president who allowed a genocide in Gaza and his opponent, who might be worse than the current incumbent.

Bassem also talked about an event in New Delhi, where most of the speeches were in Hindi, and when he inquired about the content, he was told the speeches were about converting a mosque into a temple.

He also shared with the audience his experience of filling out an Indian visa form. Despite being Egyptian, he was asked whether he, his parents, or grandparents were Pakistani.

Bassem appears to be immensely popular among young American Muslims, as evidenced by the large crowds that attended his show on both Friday and Saturday nights.

Political aspirations

While the audience laughed and clapped at his jokes, the convention’s sessions on Pakistan highlighted the political friction dividing the Pakistani community across America: whether to support or oppose Imran Khan. Pakistani physicians also seemed divided: an overwhelming number supports Imran Khan, but another faction does not share their enthusiasm.

Political aspirations took centre stage on the first working day of APPNA’s annual gathering. Discussions ranged from religion and politics to poetry recitals, with Pakistani physicians in the United States expressing strong opinions on Mr Khan and their hopes for his future influence in Pakistan.

“I think they overdid it,” said a former APPNA president while talking to Dawn about a recent Congressional resolution that passed with an overwhelming 368 to seven votes. “First of all, it’s a non-binding resolution, so it’s not as significant as it seems, and it also hurts Pakistan.”

The majority disagreed. A group of eight women and two male physicians, who also spoke to Dawn, strongly supported the resolution.

On Friday, journalist Moeed Pirzada and rights activist Marvi Sirmad, along with Prof Hasan Abbas, participated in a seminar at the convention that also focused on this issue. Interestingly, the rights activist irked the audience when she stated the 2018 election, which brought Mr Khan to power, was also rigged.

A discussion on the current political situation in Pakistan, organised by pro-PTI physicians on Saturday, featured speeches by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and PTI leaders Shahbaz Gill, Qasim Suri, Sajjad Burki and others.

Khadija Shah, who spent months in incarceration before being released, also received a very warm welcome. She shared with the audience what she and about a dozen other PTI women, including Dr Yasmin Rashid, had to endure while in prison.

KP CM Gandapur praised the Pakistani-American community for their efforts in promoting the interests of the Pakistani people. “But let’s not stop here. We must bring about comprehensive change. We need to end this cycle of removing civilians at the slightest excuse,” he said. “Support the struggle to restore civilian supremacy.”

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Royal tantrum
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Royal tantrum

The PML-N's confrontational stance and overt refusal to respect courts orders on arguably flimsy pretexts is a dangerous sign.
Bangladesh chaos
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Bangladesh chaos

The unfortunate events playing out in Bangladesh should serve as a warning sign for other South Asian states.
Fitch’s estimate
20 Jul, 2024

Fitch’s estimate

FITCH seems to be more optimistic about Pakistan accelerating its economic growth rate to 3.2pc during this fiscal...
Misplaced priorities
Updated 19 Jul, 2024

Misplaced priorities

The government must call its APC at the earliest and invite all stakeholders to take part; this matter cannot be delayed further.
Oman terror attack
19 Jul, 2024

Oman terror attack

THE normally peaceful sultanate of Oman was shaken by sectarian terrorism on Monday when militants belonging to the...
Urban flooding
19 Jul, 2024

Urban flooding

THE provincial authorities have been taking precautionary measures, or so we have been told, to cope with emergency...